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June 11, 2013

Good News for the Over-50 Crowd

My 15-year-old son reminds me almost every day that teenagers are omniscient.

“Dad,” he’ll say. “You’re totally wrong. Don’t you know that _________?” Whatever the topic, no matter how obscure, he’s confident he has full command of the facts and their tiniest nuances—and that I don’t.

“Enjoy being 15,” I tell him, “because you’re never going to know more than you do now.”

Like my son, most young people are blissfully unaware of how much they don’t know. And it’s not just teenagers—the same holds true for young people in the business world. They don’t have enough experience to know how much they don’t know. The lucky ones have mentors to serve as guides, and the rest suffer through the school of hard knocks. Inevitably they make a lot of mistakes.

And therein lies the greatest advantage for the Over-50 Crowd (full disclosure: I am one of them). Older workers have many years of experience. If they’ve been paying attention, all that experience has left a residue of wisdom. They anticipate problems, they are better at dealing with people and organizational dynamics, and they can quickly sift through piles of data to identify the handful of issues that are truly important and need attention.

I hear a good deal of complaining from older job seekers that the deck is stacked against them. Yes, there are challenges (and I’ll be writing about them later this week), but older workers have experience—and hopefully wisdom—that younger workers can’t touch.

Good salespeople know you have to sell what’s in the bag. That means older workers have to focus on conveying why their experience is so valuable. It’s a powerful argument.

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